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Joyland
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Common reads > Joyland by Stephen King

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Werner | 1807 comments We're starting our common read of Joyland by Stephen King today, so this will be the thread for posting all of our observations, comments, questions, background information, etc. (Several people in the group have read this one already; if you have, and you'd like to join in the discussion, you're welcome to even if you don't reread the book this month.) Be sure to use spoiler tags on your comments if you need to (if you don't know how to do that, click on the "some html is okay" link above the comments box for directions).


message 2: by Alex (new)

Alex Marks I hadn't previously read a lot of Stephen King, as I am a bit of a girl's blouse where it comes to horror... despite writing ghost stories myself (and they scare me too). However I loved reading the counterfactual JFK novel, 11/22/63, and so happily launched into Joyland too. Looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks.


message 3: by Deb (new)

Deb Atwood | 287 comments Alex wrote: "I hadn't previously read a lot of Stephen King, as I am a bit of a girl's blouse where it comes to horror... despite writing ghost stories myself (and they scare me too). However I loved reading th..."

Alex, I don't think you need to worry. I found Joyland to be more human in its approach, more of a poignant coming-of-age story. The ghost element does not contain much in the way of gore. I hope you like Joyland!


Werner | 1807 comments I have to say that the amusement park Joyland itself, as King evokes it, reminds me of the real-life amusement park Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN (http://www.holidayworld.com/ ), which my family and I visited a few times in the 80s and early 90s. The perceived similarity isn't a matter of anything specific, just the feeling of the "seat-of-the-pants," more spontaneous, lower-tech and less corporatized (compared to the giant amusement park chains run by mega-corporations)) ethos that seems to permeate both places.


message 5: by Deb (new)

Deb Atwood | 287 comments I know what you mean...though not about the park in Indiana. Was that a good experience for you as opposed to the slick corporate theme park?

Devin seems like someone who would be more comfortable in a low-key, low-tech park. He's happy to pitch in where needed without worrying about his job description. He also has the ability to interact with lots of different people and take something valuable from each.


Werner | 1807 comments Deb wrote: "I know what you mean...though not about the park in Indiana. Was that a good experience for you as opposed to the slick corporate theme park?

Devin seems like someone who would be more comfortabl..."


Yes, Deb, Holiday World was a good experience for the whole family, which is why we went multiple times. (Of course, we went when they had coupon days; we couldn't have afforded to go otherwise!) In fairness, I've never been to any of the "slick corporate theme parks," so I can't honestly contrast the feeling of the two from personal experience. But I'm guessing that Holiday World, in contrast, would feel more comfortable and "down-home," and less impersonal and overpowering.


Werner | 1807 comments King is just slightly older than his protagonist here (he graduated from college in 1970), and of course a writer himself, who at Devin's age would have been a would-be writer. And like Devin, he's also from southern Maine. I'm guessing that (at least in this particular novel) he identified to a significant extent with his main character, and giving the character the same kind of literary aspirations he had at that age was a way of furthering that identification.


Emma It feels quite strange to read a first person narrative from King. Nothing wrong with it exactly..


message 9: by Deb (new)

Deb Atwood | 287 comments David wrote: "I've just started Joyland, but I'm really enjoying it. King always has a way of grabbing and keeping my attention. I don't know how he does it. Especially as I'm generally irritated when the narrat..."

That is true. Bag of Bones is another example of a writer protagonist. In that case, the writer has lost his ability to write. Interestingly, I saw an interview with Stephen King this week in which he discussed how much he would hate and fear developing a dementia that would prevent him from writing.


Werner | 1807 comments David wrote: "Are there any other autobiographical aspects to the book that you know?" No, David, I'm not aware of any other parallels between the character and the author. But I don't really know much about King's life, other than what we can read on his author profile.

Until now, I hadn't really noticed it, but King eschews traditional chapter divisions in this book, breaking the narrative instead into segments of varying length set off by a small heart symbol. This device actually works well here; it avoids the problem of a long, unbroken narrative with no pauses or demarcations (which, in books like Robinson Crusoe, can produce a daunting effect that makes the read seem slogging), but the flow of the story doesn't come across as too chopped up, either.

Hmmm! I'm only up to page 159 in the Hard Case Crime trade paperback edition, and haven't read ahead any. So what I'm about to share isn't a spoiler, only the kind of speculation that adds, IMO, to the fun of a group or buddy read. We know that the killer of Linda Gray had a distinctive tattoo on his hand. Interestingly, we also have a disagreeable character who wears gloves on his hands even in situations where they're clumsy and inefficient. Am I the only person doing this read (and who's reading it for the first time) who suspects a connection?


message 11: by Deb (new)

Deb Atwood | 287 comments Werner wrote: "David wrote: "Are there any other autobiographical aspects to the book that you know?" No, David, I'm not aware of any other parallels between the character and the author. But I don't really know ..."

Werner wrote: "David wrote: "Are there any other autobiographical aspects to the book that you know?" No, David, I'm not aware of any other parallels between the character and the author. But I don't really know ..."

Interesting about the segment breaks. I listened to the audio version, so I wasn't aware of those. The audio flows smoothly throughout. Can't comment on the hand tattoo since I've already completed the book, but I'm curious to see what others say.


Werner | 1807 comments Having finished the book yesterday, I have to say I was underwhelmed overall. My two-star review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... .


message 13: by Emma (new) - rated it 3 stars

Emma I was keeping quiet because I didn't particularly like it. It was evocative of seaside fairs but otherwise was a bit boring and slooooooow...


Werner | 1807 comments For me, some parts of the book would have earned three stars (or more), while others would have got one star; so in my rating, I sort of split the difference. The reaction to the book in my friend circle, by those who've read it, ranges from two star ratings to five. There are definitely varied takes on it depending on the reader, and some of the factors that dragged my rating down undoubtedly wouldn't bother some other people.


message 15: by Felicia (new)

Felicia (felicial) | 3 comments What great comments! I've sort of heard of Joyland, and reading everyone's comments makes me curious to read it, despite the mixed reviews. I do like not-too-gory ghost stories, and amusement parks have always seemed a bit creepy to me for some reason. Thankfully, I think my local library has it!


Werner | 1807 comments If you do read it, Felicia, I hope you like it!


Werner | 1807 comments David, I appreciate your comments! Whenever you write your review, I hope you'll post a link to it here. (I'll be interested in your thoughts, and I'm sure other participants in this discussion will be too!)


message 18: by Marie (new) - added it

Marie I just bought this book about 3 months ago. I've yet to read it as I am loaded down with a tbr pile at the moment. But I will leave a review here when I get around to reading it. :)


Werner | 1807 comments Marie wrote: "I just bought this book about 3 months ago. I've yet to read it as I am loaded down with a tbr pile at the moment. But I will leave a review here when I get around to reading it. :)"

We'll look forward to that, Marie!


Amanda  (amniehaushard) | 1 comments My library book club just read this, along with some of the Scandinavian noir that is currently popular and a couple of other Hard Case Crime novels. I can honestly say this was easily one of my favorite Stephen King stories (although I must admit to being sadly not up to date with much he published after around 2002.)

I think a few years ago I would have bristled at reading another coming-of-age novel, but now that I'm approaching 50 and have read a lot more of the recognized "classics" of C-o-A in the horror genre, I can appreciate that nostalgic looking back.

Like Werner, I was reminded of Holiday World (although I knew it as Santa Claus Land during my youth.) There was something about this book that was so light and magical that I felt carried along as I read it. Basically I read it over a weekend, mostly in one day, and that always helps with the "immersion" feeling. While I would never say King has a McCammon vibe, this book captured something of the spirit of Boys Life, while still being completely unlike that novel.

Part of any reading experience is the actual "experience" (sitting in an easy chair while it snows, reading during a thunderstorm, etc.) and while my reading experience of this one was "wearing fleece pajamas and reading on the couch next to the fireplace" I still got the endless summer feeling that C-o-A books tend to evoke. I liked the mystery, could have done without yet another psychic kid (although he was far less annoying than he could have been) and loved that point-of-view (first person past tense, but referencing the future) King is fond of. This wasn't a masterpiece but it was an enjoyable and very visual story that I won't soon forget. I would probably give it five stars for a King novel, and four stars for general fiction.


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